Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley announced Thursday morning the launch of a billboard campaign aimed at combating human trafficking and the sexual exploitation of minors in the Bay Area.
“If you see something in the community, say something,” O’Malley said. “It is time that we come together as a community to stop this epidemic.”
More than 100 girls are sold for sex each night on the streets of Oakland, according to the WestCoast Children’s Clinic, and the FBI designated the Bay Area as a “high intensity child prostitution area” in 2009.
January is National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, and Oakland’s campaign looks to reframe the issue of prostitution by stressing that prostituted children are not criminals but rather victims of sexual abuse and domestic human trafficking.
“Law enforcement, the advocates, the policy makers, we can’t do it alone,” O’Malley said. “So we are engaging the community and educating the community and sending strong messages to the community that human tracking is against the law– that those who are trafficked are victims of crimes– that we need to hold the perpetrators of trafficking accountable.”
Partnering with MISSSEY (Motivating, Inspiring, Supporting and Serving Sexually Exploited Youth), one of the first advocate programs set up for Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) in the Bay Area, and media advertising company Clear Channel Outdoor, the message will be plastered on more than 65 billboards and bus shelters.
“The city of Oakland is known across the state and the nation as a red light city district”, said Nola Brantly, the Executive Director of MISSSEY. “We must come together as a city and a community to stop this.”
Oakland’s awareness campaign kicks off a broader campaign statewide. Prop 35, the most successful ballot initiative in California history, approved by 81 percent of voters in 2012, increased the penalties for human trafficking. As part of that rollout, this year there will be a campaign to put posters in designated businesses throughout the state of California. Advocates hope that this will expand the reach of Oakland’s campaign.
O’Malley said the central message is, “Buying a child for sex is human trafficking. Ignoring that epidemic is negligence.”
For more information on the campaign, go to: www.protectoaklandkids.org
The campaign was designed, pro bono, by Genice Jacobs, Producer; Suzanne Boutilier, Creative Director/Copywriter; Jed Davis, Art Director; Tom Page, Photographer for the general public ads.
Correction: A previous version of this article did not specify that Nancy O’Malley is the District Attorney for Alameda County, not just Oakland .